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Wedding Advice -- Fireworks, Large Group Photo

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  • Wedding Advice -- Fireworks, Large Group Photo

    I have an outdoor "deck wedding" coming up in October. It will be held at the couple's large estate home in NJ. They pushed back the ceremony time to 5:30PM, which means it will be getting dark by the time the ceremony is over.

    Just got this email from the bride. I told her it will be getting dark, but she seems to think we can do this:

    The fireworks may or may not happen. If they do, they will be low to the ground and white only. Since this is a home wedding, and we are not going high in the sky, we were not going to get a permit. The Groom actually shoots fireworks as a hobby, like the ones you see on July 4th. So, he is an expert.

    Our problem is that our deck is much higher than we thought it was going to be. The group shot of all the guests, we hope will happen after we have our fifteen minutes alone together after the ceremony [in their bedroom].

    The group photo will be on the deck. The best would probably be you on a really tall ladder. We will need to think about the logistics, because after the fifteen minutes, we want you, the minister, my sister and frank's brother to come up to our room to sign the marriage certificate.

    They will have their ceremony, which should take about a half hour. It will be dark (or nearly dark) by 6PM, in my estimation.

    They will spend 15 minutes alone together in their master bedroom for quiet time before they join their guests for the reception. Then I will come up to the bedroom for some photos of signing the license. By the time we join the guests, it will be around 6:30PM if everything runs on time.

    I don't see how I can do a large group portrait outdoors, at night, with an on-camera strobe. I certainly DON'T want to be up on a "really tall ladder." I don't own one anyway, and couldn't fit one in my car if I did!

    NOTE: this is something they recently came up with. They did not mention this idea when they booked me.


  • #2
    Since it was their idea to change the time ask them to rent one of the lights that you see on construction sites to light up the area and also furnish the ladder.


    • #3
      Hi Russ,

      They only pushed the ceremony back by a half hour. So it would be dark by the time the group photo was taken anyway. I just love all these evening weddings, where the bride wants outdoor photos but doesn't want to see the groom before hand! They just don't seem to realize that God isn't going to change the universe and make the sun stay out just for them.

      Even if it would be light out, I am NOT comfortable being on a really tall ladder! I haven't seen their deck, so I cannot judge how tall it is. I have seen some properties that slope down away from the back of the house, with a very high deck. So maybe that's what they're talking about? If so, the ladder would need to be 15-20 feet tall. I'm just not comfortable with that idea, especially since October is my busiest month and I don't want to risk injury.

      The construction lights are a possibility. But they wouldn't be daylight balanced so I could only shoot a black & white of the crowd.



      • #4
        Explain to them your concerns and that they are responsible for giving you an area that you can work without the risk of injury. I would still shoot with color and let the lab correct as much as possible. If you are digital find out what color temp the const. lights is. If they insist and you don't want a ladder then ask them for a cherry picker. If this doesn't work then you may have to tell them the shot is impossible.

        I just love how some customers think they can just ask and it can be done. I had a wedding change the time from 6 to 5 and didn't tell me. When I got there at 4:40 they were irate , luckily I had the contract with me and asked the brides mom to go to a private place and asked her what she wanted me to do. She changed her tune and I became her best friend again.
        Good luck,


        • #5
          Thanks Russ. I will give them the options (construction lights, cherry picker) and see what they say. I suggested to them the possibility of having the guests stand out on the lawn, with me shooting down from the deck or possibly out a window. But they nixed that idea as they want a shot of the guests ON the deck. Nevermind that this might be impossible given the circumstances.

          It really is amazing how people will think that just because they want something, that it will be possible to do it.

          I'm also concerned about the fireworks. We are in a serious drought here in NJ, so I can foresee all kinds of trouble with this. Especially if there is no permit and no licensed professional to oversee it.

          What concerns me also is that this couple could make a nasty post on one of the bridal chat boards, saying that I had refused their request for a special photo, etc. Vendors are not allowed to post on these boards, even to rebut an inaccurate statement. And the other brides eat this stuff up, siding with the angry bride and saying they will boycott that business.



          • #6

            First, go to find out when sunset is for your location on that day....sunrise/set and moon rise/set are listed and I think you can do it by city or zip code......

            Now that you know when the sun sets on that day -- pray for rain....just kidding!

            Really, now that you know exactly when sunset is you have 20 minutes of "sweet light" after that -- then it will be dark. Next, find out which side of the house the deck is on....that will make a huge difference.....

            Now, is there a room or balconey that overlooks the deck? They will be in their bedroom and I am guessing that's could conceivably just lean out the window with a very wide angle lens and get the shot.....if you have trouble with that concept, you can put the camera on a tripod or monopod hold it out the window and fire it with a long cable release......

            Here's the key: Don't make any assumptions! Get all the info you can then determine how best to handle the situation that is MOST likely to occur! You'll also look alot more professional in the eyes of your client if you can tell them exactly why the shot is or is not physically possible. It's just one more way you can build their confidence. That and that alone is why they will listen to you! Then tell them what time the shot will work and let them make the decision as to the importance of the shot. If they want it bad enough, they'll help you set it up. Either way, again, PUT IT IN WRITING and either hand deliver it or send it return receipt!

            If the deck faces west and you can get into a secondstory room and lean out with a wide angle, you will not only get the crowd but the low angle fireworks WITHOUT renting anything.

            Whatever you decide -- do your best and try to think outside the box.....
            Last edited by Rick Goncher; 09-08-2002, 08:21 PM.


            • #7

              Honey, worry about the things that are a problem TODAY!!!! If you keep this up, you'll have an ulcer by the time you've done this for 10 years!

              None of the stuff you're worried about has happened. Do your homework and put all this in writing to the bride and groom. It makes great evidence if you are so worried about that. Hey, you may just find out you have time and the chance to get this.

              Two things can come out of all of this: 1) you could get the shot and have something that no one else does! 2) You could have evidentury proof of who started the biggest fire in New Jersey These photos, I am sure will fetch a handsome royalty from Newsweek, Time and the like! Maybe even the state's attorney!

              C'mon....lighten will be ok.....


              • #8
                Hi Rick,

                Thanks for the advice. They are having tents set up on the deck for the reception, so I cannot shoot down from above. I suggested the guests stand out on the front lawn and I could shoot out a window, but they didn't like that idea.

                The wedding is about a month away and these are last minute ideas they've come up with.

                Thanks for the "honey" but I'm 44 years old and shot my first wedding 15 years ago. I stopped doing weddings for a few years, kind of got burned out with the traditional posed style, but started offering them again last year in the photojournalist style. My husband says, "you're not going in front of a firing squad, so don't worry about it."

                My concern is that these days, brides get on The Knot and other bridal chat boards and really bad mouth their vendors. And other brides just eat it up, saying they will boycott that business. Vendors are not allowed to post a rebuttal, even to correct an false statement.



                • #9
                  I see a couple of things that would worry me.

                  If this is an elevated deck, hope that they do not put more people on the deck than it can handle. Overload of capacity and the supports giving away has happend more than once at instances like this.

                  The other is Smoke from the fireworks
                  esp if they are keeping them low to the ground and if there is no breeze at all. Flash does not work too good thru smoke.

                  Ya gotta stay just a bit light hearted on all of this and do what you can. Offer sound advice and if they don't take it the Ball is firmly in their court.
                  My approach to them is not that you are not wanting to do any of these cool things, to the contray you want to be a part of neat and different stuff......however you want them to undersatnd that you want to be realistic as well. You do not want to see anything ruin their big day either.

                  You can not worry about what others might say behind your back, wether it is on a forum online
                  or word of mouth - if it is un true and slander you can put a stop to it in court, however I doubt you will ever need to resort to that.

                  Pro's that act Professional in the way they carry themself and handle all aspects of their business, tend to be protected by a large circle of friends that they have provided quality service too and know the truth.

                  There has been much quality advice given here, sort it out make a plan and present the idea and thoughts to the customer in a written and concise but Positive manner and tone.

                  Then do your job the best you can under the given circumstances.

                  After all, all of us have faced un-forseen challenges during some part of our wedding and even portrait photography career
                  it is how we adapt and make the best of any situation that makes us shine

                  I see a new thread.....Un forseen challenges and what we did to over come them !


                  • #10

                    I'm with Steve and I think you are getting a common theme in this thread....

                    If anyone posts badmouthing informaton about you that is untrue and you can prove it. You have grounds for a suit -- but it really won't have to get that far for you to not only get them to stop but a complete written retraction.....It's called Commercial Defamation and it is VERY easy to proove. It usually only takes one letter to get it resolved and if you have written proof of the defamation, it's even easier.

                    I am not advocating we start sueing the pants off our clients. I only wish to allay the fears of some people who think that if they don't relent to every whim of some moron, they will be slammed and their business ruined......

                    It's just time we all wised up to the real facts of life in the new millennium.


                    Oh, and Stanee, my wedding contract was posted on Saturday.